Silver Ferns edge South Africa to reach final

Kimiora Poi in action for New Zealand against South Africa. Photo: Getty
Kimiora Poi in action for New Zealand against South Africa. Photo: Getty
Noeline Taurua is demanding the Silver Ferns embrace a ruthless edge to close out tomorrow's Netball Nations Cup final after watching her side grind past South Africa to maintain their unbeaten start to the year.

New Zealand survived a scare in their final group match at London's Copper Box Arena as South Africa overturned a seven-goal halftime deficit to draw level in the third quarter.

With their inexperienced players on court, the Ferns regained composure to pull away for the 48-41 victory and progress to the final against Jamaica as the only unbeaten side.

Taurua believes the scrappy contest against South Africa, winless in this tournament, will keep the Ferns grounded as they strive to complete the largely impressive start to their new era.

The Ferns will meet Jamaica, who they outclassed 71-45 in Birmingham on Thursday (NZT), in the final after the Sunshine Girls defeated the under-strength and underwhelming England 70-66 to leave the hosts contesting third place.

"I'm glad we grinded it out and went toe-to-toe it got pretty close there with South Africa coming back," Taurua said. "Some of those players out there need that experience – it's a bit like going to the dentist and pulling your teeth. I'm really happy they were able to get on top.

"It wasn't an easy match and I think that's a positive for us.

"It would be a big mistake for us to go into the final thinking just because we did it in the previous games that it's automatically going to happen. There's still areas we need to work on.

"I'd be really disappointed if we did lose knowing we've been playing some really good netball. Our objective of getting everybody out on court has definitely been a tick so now we've got to finish it off."

With the Ferns already booked the final, Taurua handed Tactix midcourter Kimiora Poi her first start at centre after injecting her off the bench for the final quarters of the previous two matches.

Shannon Saunders switched to wing defence, with Karin Burger starting on the bench. Bailey Mes continues to nurse her niggly knee and won't be available for the final, leaving the Ferns with three fit defenders and shooters for the remainder of the tournament.

Poi started nervously after being pinged for stepping and held ball but her attacking feeds and defensive tips became more prominent as she settled.

As the match progressed her speed and drive through space came to the fore, and she's sure to take confidence from playing her first full test.

While largely in control, the Ferns didn't enjoy the same fluency as their dominant 16 and 26 goal victories over England and Jamaica earlier this week.

Shooting accuracy - an area of strength in their two previous matches - from captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio (15/18) and Maia Wilson (24/30) dropped significantly to 81 per cent and the Ferns were guilty of throwing wayward passes in transition.

New Zealand led 14-11 at the first break but were then sloppy at times in the second quarter which allowed South Africa to close the gap.

As she has throughout this series, Taurua took the opportunity to regularly rotate her 10 fit players.

Burger replaced Phoenix Karaka at goal defence in the second quarter and she made an impact with two intercepts as New Zealand eased out to lead 27-20 at half time.

Gina Crampton assumed much of the first half playmaking responsibility but she then gave way to Whitney Souness at wing attack for the second half.

Midway through the third quarter, shooter Te Paea Selby-Rickit came on for Wilson and Karaka returned for Watson.

While her stats were well down Wilson's presence for the final quarter, where she linked with fellow inexperienced shooter Selby-Rickit, provided a sense of clam.

Ekenasio, in her first series as captain, wants the Ferns to improve their attacking connections for the final.

"We came here with the goal to win it so we do want to finish well," Ekenasio said. "Regardless of what that looks and feels like tomorrow we've just got to stay in the fight for every single minute.

"Regardless of the score we know England and Jamaica can bring so much more than when we played them previously. We don't want to take any chances."

 

 

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